Red Unlimited was the first carnival band I jumped with. I remember writing about the experience the moment I was sober enough to recall the bits and pieces that had brought the entire day together. That was exactly six years ago, and my first carnival review had something to do with losing my belly ring, waking up on the floor of my best friend’s bedroom floor, still costumed in my carnival outfit. I had been too sore from my exertions, too tired to undress. Oh yeah, and there also may or may not have been a fainting episode that had less to do with alcohol than with the music that had left us little time to worry about eating!
I survived but from then on I was hooked on carnival! I jumped almost every year and always with Red Unlimited. I loved the people, the vibe. All my friends were in the popular party band. My carnival party crew had always included Krystal. Which is what made this year was different. Pointless going over to her house for carnival makeovers or to get gemmed up. For Krystal Felix was dead, killed several months by a stray bullet, in a Castries parking lot following a boat ride to Soufriere! (STAR April 3, 2013)
This time around one of my best friends Nadia and I found ourselves running through the other bands to catch up with our own. I had exactly four gems pasted to my face. It had taken me approximately 30 seconds to give up on that suddenly tedious task. Somehow my more persistent friend had managed to create something of a carnival design after what seemed an hour of torture!
Finally, carnival weave in check, spray tan on, sunglasses, sun block and trendy boots on lock, we were ready for the road. For days I’d complained about the brown costume my ladies had selected, having earlier left that decision entirely up to them.
“Choose anything,” I remember saying. “I’ll just go with it, really doesn’t matter.” That view had suddenly changed: “Brown? Who the heck jumps carnival in a brown costume? Remind me never to leave that decision up to you again!”
I have to say, however, that after amplifying our brownies with yellow accessories and glitter, we didn’t look half bad. Truth be told, we looked pretty darn sizzling as we jammed down the road with a brand new band: Just 4 Fun!
Yes, we loved Red, and always would. But without Krystal how could it ever be the same again? For a time we had actually considered not jumping at all. Half of us decided at the last minute not to jump, for an assortment of reasons. The other half opted for a fresh start with a new band, and, well, we reluctantly agreed.
So here we were on carnival day one with the ultimate party band. We fit in straight away. Revelers went hard, partying and drinking. Still I found myself not quite letting go, just so I could take it all in. A single carnival cup full of Campari and orange juice, my party drink of choice (hey don’t judge me!) lasted the entire day. I’d realized from early on that the scorching heat required more water than anything else.
Anyone who’s been to a wild party where you alone have the brakes on, say because you’re the night’s designated driver or whatever, well, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. This was the first time in all the years I’ve jumped that I really took in all the drama of those two days when getting on bad is considered good. I observed women getting into all kind of altercations with their men for dirty dancing with other scantily clad women; people hurt as a result of throwing caution to the winds, one way or another; and I noted how easy it was to become best friends with weirdos when your head is full of numbing booze.
I saw the desperate, drunken looks on the faces of so many otherwise regular ladies. I saw people passed out on the highway, like road kill. At one point I found myself consoling a young woman in tears who was trying to assist a man blacked out, irony of ironies, in front of a church.
“I was the one who found him,” she sobbed. “I don’t know what would have happened . . .” she trailed off. I hugged her and told her there was no need for tears, he’d be fine. This particular carnival casualty was lying in the middle of a cordoned off street. People I presumed were his friends were trying to pour down his throat what I hoped was water.
“Put powder in his face,” shouted an older woman. I was flabbergasted.
“Yeah,” said my friend standing close to me. “It really works.”
“Give the man some air to breathe!” shouted another young woman. She was bent over him so close he could’ve kissed her belly button, if only he were in a position to do anything at all. The other carnival people around him couldn’t have cared less. My friend and I moved on, headed out of town. We were roughly brushed aside by another young female who moved like an extra in some low-rent zombie movie. Her two friends raced to rescue. Too late. She collapsed on the steps outside a boutique. Her buddies set her into a sitting position as she helpless dissolved tearfully into a drunken mess.
So this was carnival from a new perspective: a whole lot more than the dazzling costumes and the women way underdressed, gyrating and enticing that I had remembered from earlier outings. At the end of it all I realized there really was nothing new about jumping in a new band. All that had changed this year was my attitude. Perhaps losing someone close to you is all it takes to remind you there’s more to the good life than drunken fun and games and more alcohol; that it is easily possible to have blast without ending up out of it and vulnerable on someone’s steps or passed out behind the bush where you’d sought some kind of privacy, for whatever reason.
Then again, these days especially, perhaps carnival serves a new purpose. Perhaps the point now is to escape reality, if only for two days. Well, what happens in carnival stays in carnival, right? Or does that apply only to Vegas? Whatever! Perhaps someone should tell that to those spoilers with their ill-gotten BBs who’re quick to post every detail of their lives to social media!